Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Whole Lot of Fracking Going On

Fracturing shale with hydraulic pressure and solvents - otherwise known as fracking - is the new battleground between the environmentalists and our society.  The now-widely reported massive increase in natural gas and oil reserves in the US largely depend on the new fracking technology.  Fracking itself isn't a new idea - but refinements in the last decade or so (along with the increase in oil prices) have made it a more viable technique for getting at American energy reserves.
In a move reminiscent of how the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" - a movie which the Science and Public Policy Institute scored 35 errors in facts before the opening credits were over - scared throngs of kids about the dangers of Man-made Global Warming, a group of activists have made a documentary called GasLand to try to stop energy exploitation. 

John Ransom reports in that the British science publication "New Scientist" has examined the case they make and concluded the science just doesn't back them up.  To quote from New Scientist:
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into methane-rich shale deposits around 2 kilometres underground to liberate natural gas. It has been accused of contaminating drinking water with methane and chemicals, and causing minor earthquakes.
They conclude that there is not much actual peer-reviewed geological research on the topic, but what little there is says it's highly unlikely to cause methane in drinking water.  It's a matter of how deep the fracking is taking place as opposed to the water well depth and the impermeability of the rock between them.
Underground deposits of drinking water often contain methane anyway, and there is little reason to believe that gas liberated by fracking 2 to 3 kilometres beneath the surface could work its way up into drinking water deposits that are usually less than 50 metres deep. The same is true for fracking chemicals.
 What about the earthquakes?  Well, here, the case is stronger that fracking could be the cause:
Fracking does cause minor earthquakes, but these "fraques" are comparable in size to the frequent minor quakes caused by coal mining. What's more, they originate much deeper in the crust so have all but dissipated by the time they reach the surface.
Earthquakes are not only caused by sliding along fault lines, like the famous big name faults, but also by the earth settling around voids; voids that could be created by pumping out water, as well as oil, or (as they point out) by coal mining or hard rock mining.  Similarly, putting up a dam and allowing the reservoir to fill could cause settling of the land under the water, creating a quake. 

George Will said,
Because progressivism exists to justify a few people bossing around most people and because progressives believe that only government’s energy should flow unimpeded, they crave energy scarcities as an excuse for rationing — by them — that produces ever-more-minute government supervision of Americans’ behavior.
There are environmentalists who really care about preserving the environment, there are those who are opposed to any new technology or energy use at all, and there are the progressive environmentalists who really want to bring the earth's population back down to a few hundred million - which would require killing off around 95% of the people on earth.  For the rest of the US, we enjoy the benefits of the oil and natural gas.  Not only the obvious ability to get around in our cars and have electrical appliances, but the many chemical products and drugs that natural gas is a feed stock for.  Petroleum is modern life. 

I say frack here, frack now. 


  1. The idea of "independence" from foreign oil is more a political hindrance that a matter of domestic supply.

    Gimme that good ol' time energy.
    Oil/gas/coal ... electricity.

  2. I'm convinced that the left really wants us to import all our oil and not be energy independent. And it must be a strong desire to import oil because domestic sources are always stymied, whether it's the near-shore Gulf oil wells or the oil under the Rockies.

    I'm also convinced that part of the reason for that is to redistribute the US' wealth. This is never openly talked about, but it seems true by observation.